• Erewhonian •
Pronunciation: er-ê-won-i-ên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, noun
Meaning: 1. Related to the mythical town of Erewhon, where people treat disease as a crime and crime as a disease and destroy machines lest machines destroy them. 2. Luddite, anti-technological, anti-machinery.
Notes: Just like pinchpenny, today's adjective works just as well as a noun. It is based on the proper noun Erewhon, the title of a novel about an imaginary region of New Zealand.
In Play: We have few Erewhonians in the world today: "The problem is not so much machines", said the Erewhonian rabble-rouser, "as the breakneck speed at which we are developing them." It may also be used in the sense of treating illnesses as crimes: "US politicians seem to be getting over the Erewhonian treatment of drug addiction as a crime rather than a disease."
Word History: Today's Good Word was the title of a book, Erewhon: or, Over the Range by Samuel Butler published in 1872. The satirical utopian novel was set in an imaginary region of New Zealand. Butler made up the name of this region by reversing the letters in the word nowhere and transposing the letters H and W. Where derives from Old English hwær "at what place", equivalent to Latin quo "whither", as Quo Vadis, a brilliant novel by Polish Nobel Prize author Henryk Sienkiewicz published in 1895. Both the English and the Latin words come from PIE root kwo-, stem of the relative and interrogative pronouns, such as English when, who, what and Latin qui "who", quot "how many", quanto "how much". Since PIE [k] became [h] in Germanic languages, these words are actually pronounced [hw] in those English dialects where initial H is maintained. (Now let's thank Rob Towart, no Erewhonian himself, for recommending today's enticing Good Word.)